Friday, 19 November 2010

Straight Talk

Let's ban Springwatch and Autumnwatch. Can we get Birdwatch taken out of distribution and can everyone un-subscribe from Birdguides and hand their pagers back to RBA. No Attenborough repeats on the Beeb; Collins should be forced to stop the printing presses and any remaining copies destroyed. Any mention of birds or nature should be removed from the National Curriculum before it encourages the younger generations to take up birding. Binocular ownership should be licensed and only to those who have can prove 20 years plus dedicated birding with at least 350+ consecutive days in the field in every year. And whatever happens don't tell anybody if you find anything decent, except your mates of course, just in case somebody who hasn't seen one before turns up to see it.

All logical conclusions to the current anti-mainstream birding stance seemingly being taken by, erm, experienced ex-mainstream birders who have seen it done it and bought the stupid t-shirt. Why? Oh, its in the best interest of the birds isn't it? Yes, of course let's go back to having no one interested in birds or their conservation apart from the local vicar and his wife. Fantastic, no crowds of part-time RSPB members cluttering up the reserves and hides and getting in our way.

Sorry what's that? Less birders and less RSPB members equals less reserves. Look I don't need an expensive breakfast and a soft toy shop anyway, I'm happy on my patch just finding stuff for myself (and my mates).... No they would never build on my patch, all the birders..., Oh, well... er, me I'd be up in arms, I'd stop them.

I'll avoid any ambiguity. THE WELFARE OF THE BIRD COMES FIRST but you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are good reasons to suppress. Private property, access, other sensitive breeding species, schedule 1 breeding etc. but 'because somebody might behave badly' in my mind simply isn't one of them. If somebody behaves badly, gets too close, plays tapes, trashes habitat, by all means call them out, give them grief, make the point, educate the ignorant SOB's but don't stop getting news of birds out, don't stop encouraging more people to get involved. The more people out there enjoying birding the more chance some of them will get interested in doing more than pointing their bins and looking. The more money our conservation organisations might have access to through memberships and donations and product sales.
Yes other people are frustrating, yes they get in the way, yes they can be incredibly stupid, sure some don't know their arse from their elbow and some never will. Plus ca change plus c'est la meme choses.

In the same way that many on the current birding scene have got fed up with chasing around the country after scarce and rare, many of the current crop of little listers will reach an epiphany somewhere down the line and realise that the appreciation and enjoyment of the bird, the moment and the place is far more important than the tick or the crippling picture. So stop being so fucking elitist and smug and give them a hand getting there when they need it. Instead of whining and bitching, offer to take one of them out for a morning, show them how it's done properly, be a mentor rather than a moaner.

As for all this about 'not serving an apprenticeship' what self-serving rubbish, do you really believe that? Ask yourself at which point in your birding 'career' had you 'served your apprenticeship' and how many rare birds that someone else had found had you managed to twitch before this mysterious 'apprenticeship' was complete? How much did you really know about your first non-self found BB rare or were you just  so excited you were like a Rabbit on speed trying to get better views? The only way that those individuals who have not managed to attain 5th dan black-belt in bird identification can learn is to get out and see them and more often than not this means other people's birds. The mortals, the ordinary birders who have jobs and who aren't lucky enough to have daily access to great patches just aren't going to find enough of their own birds to satisfy the desire for something new, something different.

Of course actually doing something positive is far tougher than just jumping on the old bandwagon and knocking anyone and everyone who doesn't conform to your high standards. It means talking to people who might be struggling with the concept of moult or who think an acro is something you get for bad behaviour. Being positive might mean that you have to stop slagging off Birdforum, you'll be familiar with that site, that's the one you visit and read as an unamed guest regularly but haven't contributed anything to because, well you know, their all just a bunch of idiots (Martin Garner, Martin Collinson, Steve Dudley, Tom Mckinney, Gavin Haig, Jos Straford); say the names slowly, google the ones you haven't heard of and marvel at how they freely give of themselves to contribute in a positive way despite their years of experience.

And last but by no means least, I've got a DSLR, my lens is not the biggest but not all photographers or birders behave badly, many put the welfare of the bird first, don't lump everyone with a lens into the lowest common denominator it demonstrates a certain lack of critical thinking, reasoning and ability to think for yourself.

12 comments:

Gavin Haig said...

Ha ha! Excellent, Alan - just the poke in the eye I needed! ;o) Good sense.

The Liverbirder said...

Alan - never have I agreed more with any blog entry (or BirdForum posting etc). Absolutely spot on! Not that you want or need my approval/support, but you have both! Superbly and succinctly composed.

Tim Sexton said...

Spot on!

JONATHAN LETHBRIDGE said...

An *excellent* rant. I agree with all of it.

John Malloy said...

Nice one Alan.

Killy Birder said...

A great post Alan and a lot of common sense.
I don't want to be part of an elitist group of bird watchers who share the pastime amongst themselves. I've spent too long trying to encourage people to take up an interest in birding and conservation. The more we involve the better it is for wildlife, and if anyone wants to view my patch I'll be happy to show them it! Experts alone will not save our birds and wildlife without the support of the masses, and generally speaking most of the mass are not interested in twitching rare species. What they enjoy is watching nature and wildlife. It is education, encouragement and inspiration that is required, and yes challenging of poor field craft. The latter, often coming from those who ought to know better in my view, as I state in my own blog. Thanks for a common sense read. Cheers Brian.

Steve Gale said...

Bloody hell Alan, where did that come from? I agree with a lot of it and identify with the vein-bulging pressure that leads to such a rant. Now, take two paracetamol and retire to a darkened room...

Pete Woodruff said...

Agree with everything you said here Alan and also with everything - well almost everything - your contributors also said.

Article excellence covering the subject admirably.

Mark Mowbray said...

brilliantly put Alan

Stewart said...

Have I missed summat? I gathered Richard Dunn has had some cokey from his blog post too. Spill the beans....

Andyinblack said...

Great shout Alan.I've met you a few times and e-mailed you a few queries and always recieved advice and helpful information.Some of us don't know our lesser coverts from our greater coverts, but with the likes of yourself happy to give help I'll eventually get there. I don't keep lists but enjoy WATCHING birds responsibly on my LOCAL patch or heaven forbid someone elses according to some . Keep it up cheers Andy

Anonymous said...

Maybe photographers could offer up their images to birders on site - it might help? As a thank you and some reciprocity for releasing news of a good bird.

It's nice to make some cash on the side but it's just a hobby for the vast majority of birders and surely not much cash would be 'lost'?